Although my personal life is pretty dull, family mythology claims that I am related to some pretty exotic characters.
My father once told me that somewhere back there we are related to William Palmer – one of Britain’s more prolific murderers. He also told me that an uncle of his had once been chased through the streets of Whitechapel (where, by coincidence, I am writing these words) by a lynch mob eager to avenge the latest of Jack the Ripper’s crimes, which had taken place that just evening. It was foggy and my uncle, a craftsman, carried his tools in a Gladstone bag just like the one Jack was supposed to keep his tools in. He only escaped by running into a police station.
So was my great-uncle a suspicious character? I suppose so – hadn’t he been ‘linked’ to the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders? So was my father a suspect too – a ‘relative’ who might have led him into evil ways – suspicious? Am I too suspect – after all, I am a ‘known associate’ of my father’s?
Presumably so, if America’s Black Helix system is to be the judge. This is the very hush-hush database that currently being populated with up to 9000 new sets of DNA each year, taken from terrorist ‘suspects’.
Based on Guantanamo, the very word ‘suspect’ is suspect. Who says they are a suspect? Any old soldier who rounded them up and chucked them into the military paddy-wagon for ‘processing’ – and six years of imprisonment and abuse without charge? Who is suspect here – the ‘suspect’ or the soldier? Or the soldier’s officers? Or the military command structure? Or the US government?
So the basis on which such suspects are ‘suspect’ is doubtful. But over and above that, what they are often suspected of is resisting a foreign invasion of their homeland. Which is not, as far as I can tell, a crime. Certainly not in the USA, where I doubt that many would resist the call to arms merely because the United Nations had said that invading them was OK or they didn’t have a current set of dog-tags.
So many of these suspects are not really suspected of anything, and the thing of which they are not really suspected isn’t actually a crime. But they are suspects anyway. We know – they are in a very hush-hush database. So they must be. No smoke without fire.
And so they will remain, dogged by this label for the rest of their days.
I can’t imagine how many things I must have done that would render me suspicious to the American authorities. Demonstrating against the war in Vietnam. Demonstrating against apartheid. Being rude about George Bush. Comparing Sarah Palin to a pitbull (hang on a minute…). This blog generally.
So someone gets a sample of my DNA and puts it into Black Helix. Thus am I branded for life. Just ask the right people and they will tell you, Oh no, he’s a bit … suspect. Quite right too – wasn’t there something about being connected to someone who was ‘linked’ with Jack the Ripper? Haven’t I even ‘confessed’ to it – right here?
I’m all in favour of using databases to keep the world safe from terrorists. I just want them to pay some attention to the people who terrify me. Which right now doesn’ t include anyone from Iraq or Afghanistan or any normal Americans. But it does include quite a few people from the US government.